Rick Pluta | Michigan Radio
WUOMFM

Rick Pluta

Reporter / Producer - Michigan Public Radio Network

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.

Rick was one of the first Michigan political reporters to write about “pay-to-play” fundraising, and the controversies surrounding recognition of same-sex relationships. He broke the news that Gov. John Engler was planning a huge juvenile justice overhaul that included adult-time-for-adult-crime sentencing, and has continued to report since then on the effects of that policy decision.

He co-hosts the weekly segment “It’s Just Politics” on Michigan Radio with Zoe Clark.

Rick is fascinated by the game of politics, and the grand plans and human foibles that go into policy-making. You will never find him ice-fishing.

Follow him on Twitter at @rickpluta

Picture of the Lansing capitol building
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will weigh in on how Republicans in the Legislature dealt with a voter-initiated measure to increase the state minimum wage. GOP leaders also asked the Supreme Court to issue an opinion on the new law that requires employers to offer workers paid sick leave.

The minimum wage and paid sick leave measures were headed to the ballot last November. But Republicans in the Legislature adopted the laws first and then changed them after Election Day, before adjourning for the year. The new laws were more employer-friendly than the original versions.

Democrats say the GOP actions circumvented the will of the voters.

marijuana bud
Pixabay

A state agency has issued its first official advice to help businesses that want to get into the marijuana business.

The first bulletin from the Michigan Bureau of Marijuana Regulation deals largely with cannabis oils and lotions that have little to no THC. The bureau says it’s not going to adopt rules on marijuana products that have miniscule amounts of the compound. 

bathtub faucet running
Jacob Barss-Bailey

Michigan will not wait for the federal government to establish drinking water rules when it comes to PFAS chemicals. That’s the class of chemicals that has been linked to a variety of health issues, including kidney cancer.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday that she is ordering the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to start its own rule-making process.

Area Agency on Aging of Northwestern Michigan Director, Heidi Gustine, cautions that the state is about to reach a tipping point, as more baby boomers reach retirement age.
BORYA - CREATIVE COMMONS / HTTP://MICHRAD.IO/1LXRDJM

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel plans to roll out a task force on Monday to develop a strategy to deal with the problem of elder abuse.

Kelly Rossman-McKinney is the attorney general’s communications director. She says an estimated 73,000 older people in Michigan are victims of some type of elder abuse. She says that number is probably on the low side because the scope of the problem isn’t known yet, and she says it takes many forms.

marijuana leaves
user eljoja / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The head of Michigan’s marijuana program says he intends to watch and learn as the state figures out the rules for future sales of recreational marijuana.

Andrew Brisbo testified before a legislative committee on the future of marijuana in Michigan Wednesday. That’s after voters approved recreational marijuana use last fall.

profile shot of Gretchen Whitmer
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is traveling the state to sell her plan to raise the gas tax by 45 cents per gallon. The fuel tax increase would go to fix roads, and to stop using the state General Fund for that purpose.   

The governor says the current plan has not kept pace with wear and tear on roads. She says that’s cost drivers more in repairs and deprived the state of economic opportunities.

Whitmer says calling for a tax increase is a last resort.

Jocelyn Benson
Benson for Secretary of State

Michigan’s new secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, has released details of her personal finances. She says this sort of disclosure should be required of all state elected officials.

She made more than $370,000 last year as the CEO of a not-for-profit organization and a law professor. That was before she took office in January. She has called for a law to require other state elected officials to make public their income sources and potential conflicts.

Dayron Villaverde / pixabay

Governor Whitmer says she agrees with a federal judge that a computer system that’s supposed to help kids in foster care needs to be fixed or scrapped.

A report to a federal judge says the problems include drastically undercounting the number of kids who were abused while they were supposed to be under state protection.

Michigan governor's office

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will share details of her first proposed budget this week. The centerpiece will be her campaign promise to fix roads and improve other infrastructure.

Most of the Michigan budget is earmarked for specific purposes. The governor says the share of the budget that’s adopted by the Legislature and the governor has gone almost unchanged in two decades.

The MDEQ's Bay City Business Center
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality

Governor Gretchen Whitmer wants to re-organize the department that enforces environmental rules. Senate Republicans are opposed to the Democratic governor's executive order to do that.

The Republican-led state Senate Oversight Committee has 60 days to make its recommendation on whether the Senate should accept or reject the order, one of the first signed by Whitmer since she took office.

Judge's gavel with books on a desk
Pixabay.com

A federal judge in Detroit has ruled the government cannot threaten Iraqi detainees with indefinite detention or prosecution to get them to sign a document saying they want to leave the US. The government is trying to deport the Iraqis, who say they face persecution or death if they return to Iraq.

ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman says the detainees are being denied legal assistance.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

A state elections board has complied with a court order to place a question on the November ballot.  It would change how congressional and legislative district boundaries are drawn.

A jubilant crowd broke out in cheers as the Board of State Canvassers voted to put the Voters Not Politicians question on the November ballot. Voters Not Politicians leader Katie Fahey says the group has already started voter outreach efforts.

“We are eager and excited to go fixing our state,” she said. “…We look forward to being in the November 6, 2018, ballot.”

Allan LEONARD / Flickr http://bit.ly/1xMszCg

The ACLU was in court Monday trying to get a federal judge to issue an order that immigration officers cannot threaten or coerce detained Iraqis into signing a document that could help deport them.

The proposal to change how Michigan draws the lines for congressional and legislative districts is about to go on the ballot. But, will it stay there?

The question to create an independent commission to handle the job of redistricting is poised to become Proposal 2 on the November ballot. The group that gives the OK to what questions make it on the ballot meets Wednesday.

Mackinac Bridge
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 could be moved into tunnel running 100 feet beneath the bottomlands of the Straits of Mackinac. Or it could be encased in a concrete and stone. Those are two options put forward today by the company as alternatives to allow it to continue to rest on the lakebed beneath the straits.

Enbridge’s report says either option virtually eliminates the risk of an oil spill in the Great Lakes.

michigan state capitol building
Brian Charles Watson / wikimedia commons

The Michigan Legislature has officially begun its summer vacation. Before they left, legislators considered a number of complicated issues, including Medicaid work requirements and school safety proposals. 

To sort out the latest from the state capitol, Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition host Doug Tribou spoke with Rick Pluta, the Lansing bureau chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network.


Update, June 13 at 10:30 a.m.:

The group Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court and asked the justices to put an immediate hold on the lower court decision that would place the question on the November ballot.

Drew, Cooper & Anding / YouTube Video

A new law extends the statute of limitations for victims of sexual assaults to file lawsuits, and for suspects to face prosecution. It was signed Tuesday by Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley while Governor Rick Snyder is out of the country.

The legislation had an army of advocates behind it – the survivors of 20 years of sexual abuse by disgraced sports doctor Larry Nassar. But they also say the new law is not enough.

GabiSanda / pixabay

The Legislature has sent Governor Rick Snyder the new state budget, including a provision that attempts to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.

Snyder and the Legislature disagree on the provision, which could lead to a showdown on whether it will be enforced.

The provision in the budget would require county health departments to favor family planning clinics that don’t also offer abortions. State law already forbids the direct use of public money funds for abortions, so this would apply to money for services unrelated to terminating a pregnancy.

C-SPAN (screen shot)

Former Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon delivered her first public comments since resigning in January under the hot lights of a U.S. Senate hearing room.

Jennifer Granholm has been out of Michigan's gubernatorial office for over seven years. But, this year, her name is back in the spotlight. 

With Republicans running the show in Lansing for the past eight years, it has been especially hard for GOP gubernatorial candidates to run on the basis of change. This election is expected to be a referendum on Donald Trump and the way Republicans are managing things in Washington D.C., or the legacy of Rick Snyder. 

Mackinac Bridge
Wikimedia Commons

Governor Rick Snyder wants an oil and gas pipeline that runs beneath the Straits of Mackinac to eventually be de-commissioned.

The mist-shrouded straits served as a backdrop as the governor answered questions on a variety of topics. When asked about Enbridge Energy’s Line 5, he said the environmental risks are too great for the pipeline to remain where it’s been for the past 60 years.

“I don’t think anyone feels as comfortable as you’d like to having that pipeline and potentially other items on the bottom of the straits.”

someone writing on a ballot
Michael Dorausch / Flickr, http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

A campaign to amend the Michigan Constitution is asking a judge to order a state board to certify its question for the November ballot.

The amendment would create an independent commission to handle drawing legislative and congressional district lines. The campaign says that would take partisan politics out of the re-districting process.

Republicans don’t like the proposal. And this week, the Republican chair of the Board of State Canvassers abruptly canceled a meeting to certify the campaign had gathered enough petition signatures to qualify for the ballot.

The Mackinac Bridge connects Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas
flickr user Always Shooting / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a temporary order that bans ships from dropping anchor in the Straits of Mackinac. That’s following an incident in April when a ship dragged an anchor across the bottom of the straits, causing a mineral oil spill and damage to the Line 5 fuel pipeline.

“Maritime maps have been marked for some time with the Straits of Mackinac as an advisory to not drop your anchor, but there’s been no rule or regulation technically prohibiting it, and so this rule now prohibits that,” said Snyder Communications Director Ari Adler.

LGBT flag
antiochla.edu / Antioch University

The state Department of Civil Rights has started accepting complaints from people who say they face discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s after a state commission voted this week to change its interpretation of Michigan’s civil rights law.

David Kallman is an attorney who says he will defend people accused of LGBT discrimination. He says the commission has no right to suddenly change the rules.

pixabay

A question to boost Michigan’s minimum wage to $12 an hour could be headed to the November ballot. A petition drive says it’s gathered enough signatures to force the Legislature to adopt the initiative, or it goes to voters.

Michigan’s minimum wage rose to $9.25 an hour in January.

Campaign chair Alicia Farris says the initiative will not only increase the minimum wage again, it will also end the lower minimum wage for workers who earn tips.

This year, Libertarians will join Republicans and Democrats with candidates on the August primary ballot in Michigan. This is something that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, the last time a third party qualified to hold a primary in Michigan was 1998.

Troy Holden / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The state Senate voted today to outlaw the sale of THC-laced beer, wine, and spirits in the event recreational marijuana becomes legal in Michigan. Legalizing marijuana will be on the November ballot, unless the Legislature adopts the question by early June.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says he expects voters will approve the question. But Jones wants to keep out marijuana-infused alcohol products that are appearing in other places. 

Looking up into the rotunda of the Michigan Capitol.
user cedarbenddrive/Flickr / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Rick Snyder and state lawmakers just got a windfall of $315 million to spend in the new state budget. It’s the result of better-than-expected economic growth that yielded more tax revenue.

skeeze / Pixabay

A petition campaign to repeal wage protections for workers on government construction projects has been halted. That leaves time for the Michigan Supreme Court to hear a challenge to the question filed by construction worker unions.

Patrick Devlin is with the Michigan Construction and Building Trades Council. The Supreme Court order came less than an hour before a state board was going to certify the petition campaign and send the question to the Legislature.

Pages